DOD delays smart card deadline

The Defense Department will not make its goal of having digital certificates in the hands of all 3.5 million DOD personnel by October and instead is looking to have those certificates out to all DOD personnel one year later, by October 2003.

The initial DOD mandate, which was set in 1999, was probably overly aggressive, said Dave Wennergren, deputy chief information officer for e-business and security. Wennergren is also part of the team in charge of DOD's effort to distribute the Common Access Cards (CAC) across the department.

"We won't meet the end of fiscal 2002 goal," he said, adding that the end of fiscal 2003 is a "realistic deadline."

DOD started handing out the Common Access Card — a secure, multi-application smart card for physical identification and building and network access — in October 2001. The new deadline is "basically giving us two years to roll out 3.5 million cards. I don't think you could do it faster than that; at least I haven't figured out a way to do it," Wennergren said.

The CAC is embedded with a digital certificate that will enable secure communications across the organization.

The CAC is one of the largest distributios of smart cards ever, Wennergren said, and even the two-year timetable is still quite aggressive.

Since 1999, there have been changes in the digital certificates themselves. The early plan used software-based certificates, which necessitated that each person across DOD be given a floppy disk containing the certificate. That certificate would then reside on the hard drive of the person's PC.

Embedding the certificate in the Common Access Card is more secure because the certificate is housed on the card, making it more difficult for crackers to get at the certificate, he said.

"We set a mandate for ourselves and then, as we found the best solution to do it, we set the timeline," Wennergren said.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine,, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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